Pizza man robberies are on rise

Delivery men from three separate pizza delivery companies were robbed at gunpoint at the same New Haven address Saturday night.

Delivery men from Papa John’s Pizza, Domino’s Pizza, and Pizza Empire were all called to 231 Starr St., during a three-hour period Feb. 21 and robbed. The crimes are part of a recent rise in armed robberies of delivery men this year, New Haven police spokeswoman Bonnie Winchester said in an e-mail.

At 11:30 p.m. on Feb. 21, a Domino’s delivery man was robbed by a young male carrying a handgun at 231 Starr St., she said.

At midnight, two men robbed a Papa John’s delivery man when he arrived at the same address, Papa John’s manager Ray Peeples said. The men also took the pizza.

At 2:30 a.m., a Pizza Empire delivery man was robbed by two young males who were sitting on the front steps of the house, which is located in the Newhallville neighborhood. When the delivery man parked at the address, he was approached by one of the men who drew a gun and robbed him, Winchester said. Both suspects then fled the scene.

Winchester declined to say if police thought the robberies were committed by the same individuals, since the cases are still under investigation. There have been several additional robberies against delivery men since Saturday, she said.

Roy Smith, the owner of 231 Starr St., was not available for comment Wednesday night.

Managers at the three pizza restaurants said their drivers were not injured in the robberies.

Frank Lorenti, the general manager of the Domino’s on Whalley Avenue, said the restaurant has had four delivery robberies this year, two at gunpoint.

“In the last couple of months there’s been more than in the last couple of years I’ve been here,” Lorenti said.

Pizza Empire manager Senol Kahraman said his drivers have been held up more than 20 times since he began working at Pizza Empire four years ago and twice in the past two months. Peeples said Papa John’s drivers have been robbed five times since Jan 1. The driver robbed Saturday had already been robbed once in February and has since quit, Peeples said.

Two weeks ago, New Haven police sent out a business alert notification, advising restaurants with delivery services to adopt increased safety measures. The alert suggests drivers take a call-back number from customers and try the number before sending a delivery man to the address.

Lorenti said the driver who was robbed Feb. 21 was new and did not attempt to call the customer before making the delivery.

“Basically, it was a bogus cell phone number,” he said. “You’ve got to try to determine what’s a bad order and what’s a good customer in a bad neighborhood.”

All three managers said they ban drivers from carrying large amounts of money to discourage robberies.

Mike Soliman, the manager at Yalie’s Pizza on York Street, said he has heard of the robberies, though his delivery man has not been robbed. Soliman said he will not send his driver to certain areas of the city. When his driver goes to a city housing project, Soliman said, the driver waits in the car until the customer comes out to get the pizza.

“If he goes inside, I don’t think he’s going to come back out,” Soliman said.

Papa John’s delivery man Michael Peterson gets into his car after dropping off a customer’s pizza. Papa John’s has had 5 robberies in the last two months.
Eleanor Sokolow
Papa John’s delivery man Michael Peterson gets into his car after dropping off a customer’s pizza. Papa John’s has had 5 robberies in the last two months.

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